Catching up on some Summer makes - a vlog

I've been meaning to blog about a few things I made over the Summer, but I just haven't had the time, so I thought I would put together a quick vlog to share them with you. Hope you all enjoy!

The Seamstress Tag

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Time for the second instalment over on my vlogging channel! I had filmed and planned for a different video to go up today, but then Hollie, from Hollie Sews, came up with the Seamstress Tag and I thought it would be a nice way to introduce myself over on YouTube, so this video has been bumped up the queue!

Hope you enjoying hearing a little bit about me and my sewing world, and if you manage to still be watching halfway through, I have a little person who joins me (he woke up from his nap!). Thankfully he was very well behaved and I managed to get through all the questions easily enough.

In my last vlog I suggest that it may be easier to sit and chat about my sewing than taking photos for blog posts....and I fear that seems to be the case! I had planned on taking photos of a number of finished garments for the blog last week...and managed to take zero!! The weather has been a bit rubbish and I have nowhere decent in the house for I need to rethink how I can do this...we shall see...I'll figure something out I'm sure!

Sewing on YouTube: My Top 10 Sewing Vloggers

Hello everyone! I had a little break from blogging there while life was getting very hectic. There have been a few changes around here, which I'm sure I'll get into another time. Instead, today I wanted to talk to you about something different...

Do you watch YouTube videos? I'm sure you do! I have been a YouTube addict for years, mainly feeding my addiction with beauty vloggers (I swatted up on how to do my own Wedding make-up by watching You Tube) and occasionally ASMR (if you haven't heard about ASMR, don't judge too is so relaxing!!), but recently I have been binging on all the amazing sewing vloggers that have emerged. In the past, the sewing videos on YouTube were all mainly informative tutorials, often a bit too amateurish for my enjoyment (sorry, but just being honest). However, over the past year I have seen a new style of sewing videos emerge - the sewing vlogger. These lovely ladies basically just sit and chat about their sewing plans, their sewing makes and just general sewing chat...which is wonderful to watch!

And so, I thought I would bring you a list of my top 10 sewing vloggers. In no particular order, please go and check out:

1. Sew Over It
Lisa Comfort may be the Queen of sewing vloggers, and no doubt the inspiration for many of the following channels. She has been uploading wonderful sewing vlogs every friday for years and I look forward to them every week!

2. Gingerella
Jen shares her lovely makes and sewing plans in a very matter-of-fact way, perhaps due to her scientific background, and I am always inspired by seeing what she has made and what her future sewing plans are.

3. Sewn
The always happy and super sweet Rosa has been sewing for a long time, and has a plethora of beautiful makes which she has shared with us on her channel.

4. Inside The Hem
An American sewing vlog, this channel is brought to you by two lovely ladies, Abbey and Lindsay. Its great to get an American perspective on all things sewing related and they always have lovely things to share.

5. Gabberdashery
The very bubbly Gabby is definitely taking the sewing vlog world by storm, even though she only started vlogging about 5 months ago! Her videos are always great to watch and she makes lovely things so I'm not in the least bit surprised.

6. Little Miss Lorraine
Jess vlogs over in Australia and uploads a video every Sunday. Again, it's lovely to see what the sewing scene is like in another part of the world and her videos are great.

7. Clueless Seamstress
We head over to Wales now, and the lovely Leigh. Although her channel might be called The Clueless Seamstress, I really don't think she lives up to that name because she has made so many wonderful things, including trousers, and they are not easy!!

8. Hollie Sews
Hollie is another vlogging newbie, only starting about a month ago, but she already has over 7 vlogs up on her channel and has even come up with a fantastic Seamstress Tag, which has been great fun to watch! Keep up the great work Hollie!

9. Kittenish Behaviour
Sian has killer sewing skills, and a killer body (ever so slightly jealous of that tiny waist!!). She makes the most gorgeous fit and flare dresses out of beautiful fabric, you definitely have to check them out if you haven't yet!

10. The Fold Line
Connected with The Fold Line online sewing community, Kate and Rachel bring us very informative vlogs about the latest sewing pattern releases, behind the scenes at sewing meet-ups as well as sewing book reviews.

These are by no means the only sewing vloggers out there, merely the main ones I watch. Please do let me know if you watch any other vlogs that you would recommend, I would love to know of more!

Speaking of which, perhaps I could suggest number 11:'s me!! Certainly a little bit nervous about putting myself out there...I hope you guys enjoyed my first vlog and are able to leave me a little comment or 'thumbs up' over on YouTube. I have lots of plans for future vlogs so I do hope I am able to make them!

Updates, Chats and Sewing Plans

Gosh guys, where does the time go? I can't believe we are half way through June, and half way through the year already! I've been a bit quiet on the blog because I started back to work this month. Even though I am only working 3 days a week in June I haven't had very much free time because for the first two weeks we (Robin, Luke and I) have been staying with my parents so that they could babysit Luke and now we have the In-Laws staying for the last two weeks to take over babysitting duties. So life is pretty full at the moment.

As well as June marking my return to work, it was also my babies first birthday! How did that happen?! We marked the occasion with multiple helium balloons (I've always wanted an excuse to buy a huge bunch of helium the kind you draw as a child), a trip to a local Pizzeria for a family birthday dinner (Luke loves pizza! But he mustn't have got the memo because he fell asleep as soon as we arrived!) and then this Sunday we had both sets of Grandparents over for a bit more of a party and went out for lunch. Robin and I had deliberated over holding a large birthday party for Luke, inviting all our friends and family, but decided that there would be many years for big birthday parties and perhaps we should just keep the first one simple. I did, however, decide to bake a couple of birthday cakes for Sunday. A large chocolate one for the adults and a small carrot cake for luke to 'smash' and enjoy all to himself. I am not much of a baker (to say the least!) and these two cakes took me pretty much the whole of Saturday to bake and decorate (photo in the collage above). It was a beautiful sunny day and Robin and Luke were making the most of the weather by going on bike rides, strolls along the beach and relaxing in the back garden. Come Sunday and my little man woke up in the worst mood ever, screaming the place down with terrible teething pains! Our little birthday party consisted of soothing a very sad little boy, trying not to disturb other diners in the restaurant during lunch and then eating cake on our own while Luke finally got some sleep. I never did manage to get photos of him 'smashing' his cake and we didn't even get to sing 'Happy Birthday' to him! Poor little guy. Anyway, the reason why I'm sharing this story is just that I learnt a valuable lesson from it. Although home baked cakes are wonderful (and I was very fortunate to have one every year for my birthday growing up), they do not define a birthday and looking back now, I wish I had just bought a god-damn cake and spent that lovely sunny Saturday with my two boys instead!

As well as a couple of photos from Luke's Birthday I've also shared a couple of sewing related photos above. The top right is a sneak peek at my most recent make, a really lovely floaty maxi dress that I made for my holiday to Spain. I've managed to wear it a few times recently, but never had the opportunity to take decent photos of it for the blog unfortunately. The bottom right is a straight skirt that I have had languishing in my stash for over a year (I made it before I became pregnant with Luke!!!), but I need to hem it. Man I hate hemming...I really don't know why! Is there any particular sewing step that you procrastinate on? I'd love to know! Anyway, now that I can fit into the skirt again I thought I had better get on that hem. I still haven't done it...

So, I've covered the updates and the cats, now, as the title to this blog post suggest, that just leaves me with the sewing plans! And if you have managed to stay with me until now, I would also like to call upon your help and suggestions please. I took the head staggers last Friday night (is that a Northern Irish phrase, head staggers? Or have you heard of that before?!) and after watching Lisa Comforts latest Vlog (which, by the way, if you don't follow, you simply must! Monthly updates on her fabric hauls and sewing plans followed up showing of her sewing makes. Fantastic!) and ended up buying 3 meters of the most gorgeous cotton/linen fabric from her shop (Sew Over It). She had mentioned on the vlog that she had a very limited quantity of the fabric and imagined it would sell out quickly, and she was right, because it is now no longer on her site! I did, however, find a screen shot of it on the Sew Over It Twitter feed:

A-MAZE-ING! As soon as I saw it I knew I needed to get some and decided that I would attempt to make a dress for an upcoming wedding that I'm going to...on the 14th of July...eek! So here in lies my problem, what to make with it! Because I have very limited time (less than a month, plus I'm back at work, plus I have a one year old) I don't want to tackle anything too difficult, such as trousers (but wow, palazzo pants in this??!), collars, buttons, plackets. I also would ideally like some arm coverage because I'm just not a fan of my upper arms at the moment. 

My initial thought was a maxi dress and the Anna dress from By Hand London. But it doesn't have sleeves (although I have seen some folk add sleeves and it looks great) and I'm worried that the super large print might loose some of it's effect by all of the panels in the skirt - what do you think?

And so began my epic trawl through all the patterns of the World....or so it felt! Finally I came across Simplicity  8047 which I absolutely love (above right) but again the dress is actually made up of panels and I think the print will be ruined by that. And then I discovered Simplicity 8137 (above left and centre). I really love the maxi version of this wrap dress, which I think would lend itself really well to the linen fabric, and it doesn't seem to be a panelled skirt so the pattern would work. However, the sleeveless maxi apparently requires more than 3 meters of fabric, which is all I have (and they are sold out, so I can't get more). Add to that the fact that I would probably like to add sleeves and I am doubtful I would have enough fabric. But I have bought the pattern anyway because I love it so I shall see if I might be able to eek it out of 3m. I'm keeping positive about it because we all know how generous the sizing is on Big 4 patterns!

But if anyone can suggest any other patterns which they think the floral fabric would suit then I would love to hear. All suggestions and thoughts are very welcome.

Tie Dye Flora Maxi Hack

So back in February I was getting all excited about finding my new style and was making plans for some Spring Sewing. I did pretty well and managed to crank out two out of the four items that I made plans for (check them out here and here). Then my parents threw a spanner in the works by inviting Luke and I out to Spain with them for a week in May. With a lovely hot holiday to look forward to I suddenly got the urge to skip straight to Summer Sewing and since my new body (post baby) is definitely not ready for short skirts and shorts I thought the best route would be maxi dresses.

I had spotted the most gorgeous navy blue and white tie dye fabric on the Ditto Instagram feed and instantly had to have it (following fabric shops on Instagram is not good for your wallet - very good for their marketing! lol). I have two approaches to owning fabric...I either purchase it, make multiple plans for it but then squirrel it away, occasionally taking it out to swoon over and stroke lovingly, but end up too scared to cut into it, or I get it back to my house, wash it and getting cutting and sewing as soon as possible! The former is the norm, but the latter was exactly what happened with this fabric. I had quite a specific plan for this fabric as soon as I saw it online, but when it arrived it turned out to be a bit heavier than I imagined and I was worried my grand plan wouldn't work as well as I thought. But I decided to go ahead with it anyway. Its a cotton linen mix, and I suppose the linen gives it a heavier drape, but the cotton and the print mean that it doesn't crease as much as 100% linen (or it doesn't show) which is great.

The plan was a maxi dress with a gathered flounce on the hem. I tried searching for a suitable pattern, but couldn't track one down that I was completely enamoured with, so decided to cobble my own together instead! I had always wanted to make a dress using the By Hand London Flora bodice (variation 2) because I thought the straight, high neckline would really suit me, so I thought this might be the perfect opportunity.

Because my time is very limited these days and I just don't have the energy to make toiles/muslins to test patterns I just tissue fitted the Flora bodice and decided it would be a decent enough fit to just go for it with the tie dye fabric. I cut a straight size UK16, but added an extra inch or so to the length, to lower the waistline. Ironically I subsequently ended up taking out about an inch there in the final fitting, so I should have just left it alone! It was a great fit around my bust at the front, but I did have to play with the zip placement a bit. I thought I had a lot more extra fabric in the back than I really did and my first time inserting the zip made the bodice too tight. I REALLY didn't want to unpick and re-sew but since I couldn't really breathe I knew it would be foolish to leave it. For this project I finally got around to using my new invisible zip foot - oh my goodness, they are brilliant! Definitely the best invisible zip I have ever sewn, and so easy to use. I highly recommend getting one if you don't already own one.

I didn't want a lot of gathers at the waist (I've mentioned before how I don't think that is a flattering shape for me) so the skirt is made as a sort of A-line, with the waist being just slightly wider than my actual waist measurement and then widening out to slightly less than the width of the fabric. I only had two meters of this fabric so I had to be a bit frugal with my cutting and could only use the width of my fabric as the bottom flounce, which was made by cutting rectangles, gathering and attaching to the hem of the skirt (advanced pattern drafting right there! lol).

The bodice is lined with a lovely light weight white cotton from my stash (I bought about 5m one time specifically for lining summer clothes!) and the hem of the skirt is actually sewn with a blue ribbon, turned up and hemmed. I decided to hem it like that to reduce bulk as I think a double turned hem would have been to heavy.

So, what is my overall opinion of the finished dress? Actually, I'm not sure. I've included the photo above of me messing around with the scarf as a belt because I think perhaps a belt would divide up the dress nicely and be a little more flattering. Without one I feel it's a bit too much a sea of blue and actually a bit boring. The dress is really comfy to wear and I love that the fabric doesn't crease much, or show creases much. However, I feel that I may be chopping into this dress and maybe making the skirt a bit more pencil with a knee-length flounce instead of a maxi - what do you think? As I said, the fabric is quite heavy and I actually got a bit hot wearing it (even though the weather is Spain was abysmal while I was there), so shortening the skirt might help.

I made one more dress for my holiday but I didn't get any shots while I was away so need to take a few photos of it for the blog - hopefully soon however I'm back to work next week. I can't believe that my year-long maternity leave is nearly over. It will be heartbreaking to leave my little Luke for the day but I have to admit there is a part of me looking forward to it - partly because I'm now scheming up lots of work appropriate sewing plans!

Chalkboard Roll-Up Mat Tutorial

Welcome to Part 2 of my tutorials using chalkboard fabric, in collaboration with Elephant In My Handbag. If you missed Part 1, where I share how to make very simple chalkboard embroidery hoop decor, you can check that out here.

Today I'm sharing how to make a really fun chalkboard roll-up mat. This mat is great to take with you when you are out and about with your kids and find you need an activity to entertain or distract them with, for example at a cafe or restaurant. It requires a bit of sewing, but it's really easy to make, so let's get started!


  • Approx 30cm x 42cm chalkboard fabric
  • A fat quarter of accent fabric (any stable cotton would be fine)
  • Approx 2.5m 18mm bias binding
  • Quilting clips
  • Pack of chalk
  • Small chalk eraser/sponge
Tips on working with chalkboard fabric:
- Use a heavy duty sewing machine needle, such as a Jeans needle
- Chalkboard fabric can be ironed, but only on the reverse of the fabric and at a low heat. Ironing makes the fabric very soft and pliable (and it will ripple a bit), but it will stiffen up again once it cools
- Don't use pins as they will leave holes in your fabric. Instead I found quilting clips the most useful. 


You can make your mat any size you like, but I went for roughly A3 size. For this, cut the following pieces:
  • Chalkboard fabric: 30cm x 42cm rectangle 
  • Accent/backing fabric: 30cm x 42cm rectangle
  • Accent/pocket Fabric: two 20cm x 20cm squares
To create the rounded edges of the mat, draw around a glass, or other circular object, at each corner of the chalkboard and backing fabric pieces. Cut.
The larger the curve, the easier it will be to sew on the binding!


The size of the pocket will depend on the dimensions of your packet of chalk and eraser.
Tip: If you can't find a small eraser, do what I did and make one from a sponge! Just cut the sponge down to the size you want.
  • Place the two pocket squares right sides together and sew around three edges with a 1.5cm seam
  • Clip corners and turn fabric right side out. Press.
  • Keeping the open edge on your right (this will be the edge sewn into the binding of the mat) fold the pocket piece in half by bringing the bottom up to the top. Then fold the upper layer back down by 2cm. Press. 
  • Edge stitch the left hand side of the pocket piece shut
  • Sew down the middle of your piece, creating two pockets


  • Cut a 90cm length of bias binding
  • Fold in the ends and sew down
  • Fold the length in half and sew down open side


  • Place the chalkboard fabric and the backing fabric pieces wrong sides together. 
  • Position pocket piece in the middle of the right hand side of the mat, on the chalkboard side and clamp in place.
  • Fold the tie piece in half and position in the middle of the other edge of the mat, on the backing side. Line up the fold of the tie with the edge of the mat, the loose ends running across the mat. Clamp in place.
  • Baste around the edge of the mat, staying as close to the edge as you can and making sure to secure both the pocket piece and tie. Be very careful sewing over the tie - I suggest sewing by hand turning the sewing machine wheel very slowly, otherwise the needle could break!
  • Now bind the entire edge of the mat with the bias binding. There are several methods for this - I sewed the binding, right sides together with the backing fabric, flipped in over and topstitched it on the chalkboard side. But you are welcome to sew it on in one go, just make sure you catch the underside! Again - be very careful sewing over the tie!!!


Well that's it! I really love this project, it was so quick and easy to make - and how cute is that Harbour fabric that I used?!! My little man is a bit too little to use this mat at the moment, but I will definitely be bringing it out when he is old enough. If you make one I would love to see your version in action!

I will hopefully be back next week with a sewn garment (I just need to photograph it - and all sewing bloggers will know, that can take far longer than the actual sewing!). After I announced my Spring Sewing Plans, my parents invited me out to Spain with them, so a couple of maxi dresses got bumped up the queue! 

House Tour and Inspiration: The Dining Room

I have fallen slightly behind with my House Tour, so let's get back on track and let me share with you my Dining Room before shots and some inspiration for what I'm hoping to achieve.

If you missed the previous posts, you can find them below:
- The Nursery
- The Living Room

The previous owners of our house recently added an extension to the back, creating a large, sort of L-shaped space with kitchen and living space. The photo above shows what was probably the original kitchen, the door leads out into the hall, towards the front door.

This shot is standing in that space and looking towards the new kitchen extension. You can see from this photo that the space can be quite dark.

Finally this is the wall opposite the door into the hall.

Initially I had planned for this space to be more of a cosy nook to curl up and watch TV or read a book (I obviously had those dreams before I realised that my curling up with a book days were over once Luke came along!), while the area beside the open plan kitchen would be our dining area, as I thought it would be lovely to be able to cook while others sat and chatted around the table. We had this layout for a while, but I wasn't totally convinced and one day, while my husband was out at work, I rearranged the furniture and instantly preferred the dining table in this space.

As you can see from the before photos, the dining/kitchen area has the same lovely wooden floors as the living room, so thankfully we don't need to do anything to them. In terms of the walls, although I like the soft green, our previous kitchen was a similar colour and I really wanted to try something different this time. I am thinking a very light grey colour, to tie into the New England vibe I'm very loosely striving for.

All images and their sources can be found on my Pinterest Beach House Dining Board.

Our house has very limited storage so I knew that creating as much storage space as possible was very important. I have always lovely the look of a Welsh Dresser, but to be honest, they don't hold as much space as I would like/need so when I came across the above image of the Liatorp bookcases from Ikea I knew this would be ideal. I was beyond delighted when I realised that the large wall opposite the door into the hall was the perfect length and depth for these! I say depth because we have a supporting pillar which juts out there and I wanted to make sure whatever I placed on this wall would be flush with the pillar.

In terms of lighting, I am having a major obsession with pendant lighting above dining tables at the moment. I feel they just create such a lovely cosy glow and add interest and hight to the area. I particularly love fishermen lanterns, you know, 'coz of my whole love for everything beachy and nautical! So hopefully my husband can sort that out for us.

Our old dining table and chairs are perfect for the look I'm after, so thankfully no money needed in that area.

As I mentioned above, the added extension has actually left the dining room area quite dark. Because of this I think I will need to add some sort of lighting into the Liatorp bookcases. I also think that a large mirror on the back wall would reflect the windows at the back of the house and hopefully bring some natural light into the area. I had thought that a mirror that looked like a window would be pretty amazing looking (see the photo above right), but I did a bit of research and either they were significantly out of my budget, or were just the wrong style for our house. So for now I'm just going to use a mirror that we previously had in the bedroom of our old house.

Finally, the wall with the radiator on it. I feel that this space is sort of a wasted area, because of the radiator. Ideally I would have a pretty sideboard there, but since I can't I thought I could box in the radiator, creating a sort of faux sideboard. I also really love the display of prints on the above right photo so I may try and recreate something similar.

Next on my House Tour I'll talk about our bedroom plans. Our shutters are arriving this Thursday so I am really excited to finally get something up on our windows - we have had the whole front of our house 'exposed' to the world since we moved in last July!!! I just know they are going to make such a huge difference to the overall look and feel of the house!

And speaking of Thursday, my second Chalkboard Fabric tutorial will be up then, so I hope you come back and check it out! If you missed it, the first one can be found here.

Embroidery Hoop Chalkboard Tutorial

Time for another Elephant In My Handbag tutorial. In fact, we have two EIMH tutorials for you this month, both using the most amazing fabric which up until a couple of months ago, I didn't know existed - Chalkboard fabric! That's right, it's fabric that has a special black coating on it that acts like chalkboard! It really is so amazing, and very easy to work with and even sew with.

For today's tutorial I have made the cutest sewing-themed decor, that would look really great on your sewing room walls (if you are lucky enough to have your own sewing room!), or would also be adorable in a kids room. Embroidery hoop chalkboards!

Now, I have taken step-by-step photos, but really, this is the easiest make in the whole world, and only takes a couple of minutes, so an instant gratification project, and I know we all love them!


  • Wooden embroidery hoops in various sizes. I have used 6", 7" and 8"
  • Approximately 25cm/10" strip of chalkboard fabric - but it depends on what size of hoops you go for, just make sure you have about an inch/2.5cm more fabric than the size of your largest hoop
  • Scissors 
  • Chalk!


Lay your embroidery hoops on top of your fabric and cut around them, leaving abut 1cm/half an inch extra around the hoop.


Open your embroidery hoop as much as you can and mount your fabric. When tightening the hoop up again, keep the fabric as taut as possible, especially in the area where the screw is, as it has a tendency to wrinkle here.
Once the hoop is as tight as you can make it (you won't be able to fully close your hoop due to the thickness of the chalkboard fabric), trim the fabric at the back as close as you can to the frame. You could also use a craft knife to help you shave the fabric as close to the hoop as possible, but please be careful!


Use the little gap left at the top of the hoops to hang your work and then get cracking with your chalk! You can just erase your chalk with a normal chalkboard eraser, but I find it works better if you use something wet (even a wet wipe is good), as it leaves your chalkboard fabric perfectly clean for your next scribble.

And that is you done! Isn't that the easiest project in the world? Sometimes the simplest things are the most satisfying. I really love these little hoops hanging in my sewing room, they just add such a cute whimsical charm.

I'll be back with another tutorial using chalkboard fabric in a couple of weeks - one that is a little bit more involved and requires firing up the sewing machine, but I promise you, you are going to love it!

My Number 1 Sewing Tip

On my 29th birthday, back in 2009, I was given my very own sewing machine, and a passion was born. Since then I have been sewing, on and off, pretty much every week and, although I wouldn't call myself an expert and I have an awful lot more to learn, I have certainly picked up a few hints and tips over the past 7 years. But there is one tip above others that I would pass on to anyone who was thinking about starting sewing that I wish I had know when I started, and it's a very simple tip:

Use the best quality tools you can afford

Yep, that's it! But let's look at this a little more closely. Obviously if you are only starting out, you may not want to commit to all top end tools, just in case sewing turns out to not be for you (imagine!). So I think it is only prudent to perhaps buy the best you can afford, or feel happy spending money on, and then slowly over time replace and upgrade your various tools, which is how I have been approaching it. But which 'tools' are worth spending the money on?

Fabric Scissors or Shears
Oh my goodness, what a difference decent fabric scissors make! My first pair were a £5 pair from Ikea, and for a while they did the job. But very quickly they became blunt and I was left hacking my way through my fabric. I decided to upgrade to a pair of Fiscars Dressmaking Scissors, which set me back about £20. Wow - it was like a whole new world was opened up to me. These scissors glided through all different types of fabric with ease and I no longer struggled getting straight lines cut. I'm quite sure these shears will last me a lifetime and I will be happy, but I do have to admit that I have had my eyes on both the gorgeous red handled 10" shears from Merchant and Mills, and also the turquoise handled 8" shears from Ernest Wright and Son. At £53 and £40 respectively, they are quite a considered purchase, but I have only heard amazing things about them...and I have been dropping many unsubtle hints to my husband! What type of shears do you own and what do you think of them?

When I first started out sewing I wanted ALL THE THINGS and I wanted a big stash of all different bits and bobs to be able to 'shop' from whenever the inspiration for a new project hit me, rather than having to wait until I had time to go to a fabric shop and pick up everything I needed then. So my solution to this was to bulk buy thread in a multitude of colours. I found a bundle of about 20 spools on Ebay for very little (I can't remember exactly) and decided that would be perfect. I use this thread for many of my first projects and it worked ok. But as soon as I used a spool of 'decent' thread in my machine, I realised that my machine actually ran so much more smoothly, I had less thread 'nest' disasters (you know what I mean right?!) and hand sewing was far less stressful. It was a revelation, to say the least!

Sewing Machine Feet
Up until very recently I had always just used the feet that came with my sewing machine to tackle all my jobs - and that was primarily my regular foot and a regular zip foot. About a year ago I decided to invest (I say invest, but they aren't that expensive really!) in a walking foot as I was going to be doing some machine quilting. Since then I have rarely put my regular foot back on my machine as the walking foot is not only helpful with quilting, it is also just brilliant for assisting feeding all fabric through my machine. And my most recent 'upgrade' was an invisible zip foot - oh my goodness, what an eye opener! I have always just sewn my invisible zips with my regular zip foot and a lot of heat from the iron. I did a decent job, but it was always a bit of an effort. I have just used the invisible zip foot for the first time and it is brilliant! Really worth buying one if you haven't yet!

I bet you weren't expecting me to talk about something as basic as pins - surely they are all the same right? Well that's what I thought and for the first 5 or so years of sewing I was struggling (without realising it) with pinning my fabric with the cheap pins I owned. Turns out if you spend just a little bit more on your pins, you get far superior, sharper pins that glide through your fabric with ease. Basic pins usually have plastic heads, but if you spend a little bit more you can get glass headed pins and then you don't have to worry about your pins accidentally melting onto your fabric when you iron over them (I have done that far more times than I care to admit!). Another tip would be, if you can afford it, invest in pins specific for your fabric. You probably know that if you are going to sew with jersey you need to use a ball-point needle. Did you know that you can get ball point pins? I didn't, until I accidentally ordered some! Initially I was really annoyed that I had ordered the wrong type of pins, but I soon discovered how much better they actually are at pinning jersey fabric! Or, if you are going to be working with light, delicate fabric, such as silk, you could invest in a set of Entomology Pins from Merchant and Mills. I bought some to work on my Wedding reception dress and they are very sharp and were excellent for working with the silk and delicate lining I used.

This is a similar story to the thread - I decided to bulk buy cheap zips from Ebay so that I had a variety on hand. But more often than not, the zips would break, or just not open and close very easily. The bottom line is, if you are going to spend all that time and toil making a beautiful garment, do you really want to put a shoddy zip in it that might break? No. Just buy a decent zip as and when you need it!

Another Ikea story - when I started out sewing I discovered that buying fabric could be very pricey...and then I discovered the fabric section of Ikea and I thought I had found my solution. And I had - I made a number of lovely garments and project using Ikea fabric (this skirt, this bag, this skirt and this top). Ikea fabric is lovely and it makes great curtains, cushions and even bags, but it doesn't really lend itself very well to garment sewing. It creases terribly in the wash and its really hard work to iron - especially when you loathe ironing! This means I have only worn my Ikea fabric garments a couple of times each. I admit using this cheaper fabric was great for practising and honing my skills, but now that I am a bit more competent at sewing I am prepared to spend a bit more on my fabric and get a better quality garment at the end. And, although this is not always the case, quite often spending a bit more money on your fabric means you have a cloth that is actually easier to work with than a cheaper alternative - making your sewing experience more enjoyable. An extreme example of this is Liberty Tana Lawn - this stuff is pricey (£22 per meter!), but oh my goodness, it's like sewing through butter! There is certainly more affordable fabric out there that is still very good quality and easy to work with. In contrary to this, fabric is actually an area where you can save money if you are wanting to - how about up-cycling old clothes or sheets? That's a great way to get your hands on fabric of a decent quality for little money.

Sewing Machine
Now I was very lucky to be given my sewing machine for my birthday, as this is certainly a considered purchase! However, because of this, I can't really give you any nuggets of wisdom on sewing machines. What I can share is that starting off, you really just need a machine which can sew a straight line and a zigzag. My machine is probably just above the basic sewing machine and it has served me well over the years, however I do feel that I am now coming to the stage that I would really love to upgrade. But sewing machines are expensive, and I have a new house and childcare to pay for, so I think I will be waiting awhile for that upgrade!

So those are the main tools which I think you should spend what you can afford on. Of course there are many more tools out there that are brilliant and will make your sewing experience more enjoyable. Things that you don't necessarily need, but are great to have - for example a pressing ham (amazing for ironing curved seams), a dressmakers dummy or a tailors pressing clapper. But that's a whole other blog post!

What tools do you think are worth spending a bit more on? Have you had similar experiences as me with your tools? I'd love to hear your stories and any advice or tips you can share on the subject.

Spring 2016 Sewing: Wiksten Tova

So here is the second instalment to my Spring 2016 Sewing plan. I have finally sewn up a Wiksten Tova - it has only taken me about four years! I've had this pattern in my stash for a ridiculously long time, and have always meant to make a version, as I have loved all the other gorgeous renditions out there.

My version is made up in some lovely salt and pepper wool mix fabric, which I picked up in my epic haul from Fabworks (for only £7/m!). They call it a Grey Woolly Chambray Flannel and I could see it made up beautifully in a whole range of different ways (jackets, skirts, trousers), but I decided I would try it as a Tova. Perhaps my first attempt at making a Tova should have been with a light cotton or voile because there were a few elements of this make that were tricker to deal with due to the weight of the wool. For example, I omitted a few top stitching instructions because I didn't think my sewing machine would cope very well with the multiple layers of fabric, and I also hand stitched the cuffs and collar (the final stage of each, not the whole construction!), again due to the thickness of the fabric. I also just overlocked/serged the hem, turned it up once by 1 inch and stitched in place to reduce bulk.

Overall, it's quite an easy make. The corners of the front 'bib' were a little nerve wracking (am I catching too much fabric here....I found myself sewing while holding my breath - you do that too right?!) but thankfully it worked out OK first time and I didn't need to unpick anything. The sleeves also went in beautifully, so I was really pleased about that. The instructions have you overlock/serge all your edges, and I would have done that anyway because this fabric FRAYS! As in, just look at it lying on the table and it appears to fray in front of you without even being touched! So if you do want to get any of this, do keep that in mind and perhaps pick a pattern which doesn't require you to handle/manipulate the fabric too much. Once the edges were overlocked though, it made all the difference.

In terms of style and design I sewed up a straight size Large without making any alterations and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. Some of these photos do make it look like it's tight across the bust, but it's not in 'real life'. I have seen a few versions where they have left off the mandarin collar, and I was tempted as I'm not a big fan of that style of collar, but decided for this first version I would just sew it as it is and then see. It turned out OK, but I may omit it next time. It also doesn't sit very well, which I think is partly down to the bulky fabric. I was also nervous about the sleeves gathered into the cuff. I'm just not a fan of 'puffy' sleeves so didn't know whether to alter them or not but, again, for this time, I left them. I actually don't mind them. But they will make wearing a layer over the top a bit awkward, so we shall see what that is like in slightly colder weather. Speaking of which, this top should be great for early Spring and most of Autumn due to the colour, the weight of the fabric and the wool content. I know I don't look particularly 'Spring-y' in this outfit, but guys, I live in Northern Ireland. Our Springs are generally rather cold and wet!

The opening is a bit low in the front, which is what I have read in other reviews. I don't mind it for my current lifestyle, but if I ever wear this to work (our dress code is slightly more casual than 'business attire' so I probably could) then I would definitely wear a camisole underneath. The finally issue I'm not 100% sold on is the hem. I'm perhaps being a little over analytical and over critical, but I think I would suit a curved hem more as this top is essentially cutting me straight across my hips, which I don't think it as flattering. But I can live with it.

In general I'm happy with my new top, but I don't love it as much as I love my Vogue V1247. I think I would benefit from having a little bit of shaping either in the sides or perhaps some darts on the back as it billows out a bit there. Maybe thats the choice of fabric? I think it would be a very nice and relaxed Summer top made up in a light voile, so I'm tempted with that. I also think it would be a lovely Autumnal dress made up in a corduroy or similar, worn with thick tights and the addition of pockets - it would definitely need pockets!!

Right, that's half of my Spring 2016 plans sewn up - go me! The next two are a little bit more complicated so will take a bit more time, and I've got a few things going on at home, so it will be a little bit longer before they appear on the blog. But hopefully I'll get them sewn up before I start daydreaming about my next project!

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